Dystopia Chapter 21

From the Story Arc: Dystopia

Previous Story in the Arc: Dystopia Chapter 17 by Krasnaya Zarya (Saturday, August 05, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Dystopia Chapter 18 by Krasnaya Zarya (Friday, August 11, 2006)

(posted Monday, August 07, 2006)

The laboratory was small, a simple affair for simple work. No spectrometers, no lasers, no computers; not a single blinking light or fancy knob. It had two sinks – one small and regular, with a long spout, the other more of a washbasin – and a couple standard safety devices – fire extinguisher, chemical shower, and vacuum system. There even appeared to be a small refrigeration system under one of the gray stone counters. In the mind of Aleksander Rabinovich, this belonged to an elementary school, not a theoretical physicist.

Theoretical physicist. It was a strange new appellation in his mind, having replaced the nuclear and subatomic physics that had been the sole direction of his years of study and field work before the meltdown. He still wasn't sure why he had abandoned his old scientific love for this one, but somehow he felt restricted by his old environment. The more mystical types say that being paralyzed in body will expand the mind, and normally Aleksander didn't give such nonsense a moment's thought, but perhaps there was some kernel of truth under all the obfuscation. After all, it was during the tedious hours between chemotherapies and near-comas that he got the inspiration for his doctoral thesis.

He wandered slowly around the room, trailing his hand along the counters, opening and closing the various cabinets, and mentally measuring every nook and cranny. While it would be impossible for him to bring a Computed Axial Tomography device, let alone a particle accelerator, he could still use it to test smaller gadgetry. Not that he could afford any of those; he'd be operating on a budget until his first patents get through at the least – mechanical analog microscopes instead of electron, for instance. Which was too bad, as he'd recently read an article on nanotechnology that had fired off more than its fair share of electrons in his brain.

“So, what do you think?”

He turned away from his mental reverie and towards the other occupant of the room, an older woman wearing the suit and tie that were considered formal everywhere in America, even here in southern California. She was holding a manila folder in the nook of one arm, while a black suitcase hung with the other arm against her skirt. He glanced at her and tilted his head from one side to the other in a noncommittal fashion.

“I know it isn't up to your usual, Doctor Rabinovich-”

“Aleksander, please,” he interrupted. He certainly didn't feel like a 'Dr. Rabinovich', let alone look like one. The image that came to his mind was of a fat man with a long white beard and thick-rimmed black glasses. Sofia said she'd kill him if he ever let himself grow obese, but since she agreed to take such care over her own figure, he couldn't complain.

“Sorry, Alexander,” the woman continued. What was her name again? Aleksander always had a problem remembering names. Exact spectra of electromagnetic waves, sure, but names, not so much. “Is this up to your liking? Until recently we had a chemist working in here, and before then, it was used as a darkroom by a photographer. Hardly a physics lab, I know, but it is quaint and functional.”

“Hardly,” he murmured, pacing around the small central island that appeared to be half-desk half-bar. Like everything else, it was made out of solid stone, with cabinets on one side, along with a large empty space for the feet of somebody sitting at it. It matched the construction that lined the rest of the room, including drawers above the cabinets. He could easily see himself sitting there, his latest experiment resting in front of him. It would make a good quiet place for his personal projects, at least until the university worked out his citizenship and national security issues to give him that job he wanted.

Oy, that was a pain. Nothing quite like the land of capitalism to fret over a scientist from the old communism. He'd been told that America had always been trying to snatch up scientists from the other side of the Iron Curtain, learn all the secrets of the big bad Russians, and since they did it, the American government assumed the Soviet Union would be doing the same. Suddenly everything scientific and bleeding edge becomes a matter of national security, and Aleksander can't do research with the supercollider because he doesn't have the 'clearance'.

So here he was, being escorted around Los Angeles by some American bimbo real-estate agent who, he was beginning to suspect, was trying to flirt with him. He wasn't entirely sure, nor did he particularly care. It wasn't that she was unattractive, but he had no great urge to betray his wife's confidence, to push back his own true desires in lieu of the illusory ones created by the abundance of testosterone. He just decided he'd ignore it, chalk it up to an overactive imagination.

“We do have one other property up for rent, Alex,” the woman announced, breaking into his train of thought. Americans couldn't help but bastardize his name, slurring the 'ks' and eventually dropping the second half. It's not like he didn't already have a perfectly good nickname, but Americans refused to use it. “It's smaller than this, though. But you've seen all the rest.”

All the rest. Little dumps, some of them barely maintained at all and bound to collapse within a year, and others in such condition that it would only be useful for experiments in zoology, especially rats and cockroaches. What he wouldn't give for a clean room... But this one would do, in its fashion. He'd just have to do a little remodeling, and a lot of renovation.

“This one is good, actually,” he replied, leaning against the central isle. “I think I'll take it.”

The woman flashed him a bright smile.
Definitely flirting, he mused.Sofia has a prettier smile...

The two men sat besides Alex's unconscious body, draped in wires and cables and in varying states of consciousness theirselves. The trio ran the gamut of sleep states, with one of the rippers wide awake, the other half-asleep, and Alex seemingly paralyzed. The rippers were seemingly frozen, except for the movement in their eyes and hands.

Various instruments were attached to Alex, especially on the head and neck, the wires from said objects splitting and heading to two places: a medical device, or the semiconscious ripper. A large helmet on his head was scattering light around the room as different coloured bulbs and diodes flashed in seemingly random patterns. The last man watched this silently, turning a dial and examining the results on the brain scan, then glancing at his companion.

“Memory use: confirming identity: Aleksander Rabinovich,” the dazed looking soldier stated in stilted tones. 'Request: new memory for examination.”

The man at the controls nodded, flipping a switch and turning the dial once more.